Newsletter Critique: Admirals, city livin’, and the subject of the matter



Newsletters are funny and tricky things. You have to think about 1.) tone 2.) audience and 3.) selling at the same time.

Indeed, newsletters are one of the top referrers to the website. We talked about the difference between social media and packaging a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a reminder.  Packaging is about enhancing the reader experience and increasing time on site. Social media/newsletters are about engaging and getting to the site. Think about the newsletter as the delivery system for web traffic. The goal is to get them to engage by clicking on the link and having them come to the site.

So, let’s take a look at today’s newsletter.

1.) MavStrong competition

If it’s got a picture it’s being looked at. Digital is a visual medium so keep in mind that the lead image has to sell. Although I cited this image as honorable mention in my last critique, I’d like to see something fresher. We spent some time with this guy and even took a video, did we really only have one photo?

I think the headline “Students lift for MavStrong competition” is an okay headline for print, an “eh” headline for digital but a fail for newsletter. By now, readers would have at least glanced at the site and may have come across this package. So, the headline here has to pop and make people want to click. Here’s where the tone and selling part of the newsletter converge.

We’ve talked before how each hyper link is a call to action. This one was generic. I thought this one would be better:

Watch UTA student Abraham Assi demonstrate a log press.

It still tells me what it is but it gives me a name, someone to know and cheer for (or be envious of).

2.) UT System Chancellor

Oh, man! Did we really miss an opportunity to use NavySEAL in a headline? Yup. Adm.  William H. McRaven (by the way, AP error for admiral, p. 174 if you wanted to look it up.) isn’t your regular higher education administrator. This guy was the head of special operations command! He’s a NavySEAL! Now he’s going to run (after the finalist period) one of the major university systems in the country. Yeah. He’s not an ordinary choice and the headline should reflect that. This is easy page views.

3.) Metroplex can serve up summer entertainment

When there’s a fun story, have fun with it in the newsletter. The headline on this is a snore fest, it did not make me want to click it. The summary of the story was also a bore. Check out the critique on the board to see how I’d sell this story to newsletter subscribers.

4.) Subject lines.

It took me about a minute and half to find the newsletter this morning. I glanced by the subject line at least 10 times until I finally realized that it was the newsletter. And this was only because I was actively looking for it.

The newsletter competes with email. Bottom line. It competes with other newsletters, sales ads, emails from friends and bosses, spam, and other things that get delivered in email. The subject line HAS TO SELL THE ENTIRE NEWSLETTER. 

This line: Chancellor sole finalist; Prepare for fall... doesn’t cut it. Look at how other newsletters, most especially those who sell things — clothing, services, etc. make their subject line pop.

An option for a subject line would be: New leaders, world changers, and a glimpse into the past. 

See the difference?

Alright guys, that’s it! Open door, always.  Onward and upward.

This entry was posted in Training by Icess Fernandez Rojas. Bookmark the permalink.

About Icess Fernandez Rojas

Icess is a writer, professor, and blogger. She is a graduate of Goddard College's MFA program. Her work has been published in Rabble Lit, Minerva Rising Literary Journal, and the Feminine Collective's anthology Notes from Humanity. Her nonfiction has appeared in Dear Hope,, HuffPost and the Guardian. She is a recipient of the Owl of Minerva Award, a VONA/Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation alum, and is also a Kimbilio Fellow. She's currently working on her first novel.

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